REBECCA SPENSE: On May 18th, Massachusetts caught the attention of the nation. The state board of education unanimously endorsed four the report’s key recommendations. Finally our voices and stories would impact every high school in the state.
America Close Up
JANE PAULEY: Gay issues remain in the closet in most schools. But some educators are finding a solutions by reaching out. NBC’s Mary Alice Williams has more
JAMES COHEN: Many high schools across this state are known to be not safe for gay and lesbian teenagers.
JESSICA BYERS: Students have nothing to protect them from being discriminated against or harassed constantly by their peers and even their teachers.
MARY ALICE WILLIAMS: No one knows how many gay high school students there are. But it was this testimony by homosexual kids that forced Massachusetts to acknowledge a population that could number in the thousands — a population so deeply hidden that many people, including school officials, had to be convinced they even exist
ROBERT ANTONUCCI: I feel if there’s only one student who is being harassed, who is being discriminated against, who faces a violent situation, that that student needs protection
MARY ALICE: The Massachusetts Board of Education has adopted the nation’s first statewide policy recommending schools set up support groups and counseling for gay students and their families, train teachers in suicide prevention, and above all, protect gays and lesbians from violence.
C.J. DOYLE: They’re using public safety as a Trojan horse to get homosexual programs to be accepted by an unwilling public.
MARY ALICE: This debate has punched every moral, political, and religious hot button.
JESSICA BYERS: This isn’t a choice I’m making. It’s just something I realized about myself.
MARY ALICE WILLIAMS: Being a teenager is touch enough. Something as simple as a blemish can wreck the week.
JESSICA BYERS: I remember writing down that I didn’t think I could tell anyone else that I was gay and that it would always be something I’d always have to keep a secret because kids
TROIX BETTENCOURT: If someone is called a fag in a high school, there’s a 95 percent chance that no one is going to stop them from using that word, while if someone says, “ni**er,” they’d get attention, they’d get a lecture about it.
MARY ALICE WILLIAMS: Troix Bettencourt seemed a macho guy — played soccer, even had a girlfriend. When he finally admitted he was gay, friends shunned him, his folks kicked him out, he dropped out of school.
Consider this. 28 percent of all gay teenagers drop out of high school — more than twice the national average. A department of student services study indicates they are more prone to abuse alcohol and drugs. And 30 percent of all teen suicides are committed by kids trying to deal with their own homosexuality.
TROIX BETTENCOURT: I did think about suicide. I never attempted suicide, but I did think about it.